Saturday, June 27, 2015

I love, love, love having a big city to explore


And Tokyo is truly, by anyone's standards, a big city. As I had never been to Japan before, everything was interesting, new and different, everywhere we went and (almost) everywhere I pointed my camera.

Quite near where we were staying, we came across the Benkei Fishing Club in Akasaka.


Fishing Club, Akasaka, Tokyo

What is now a pond for boating was once part of an old castle moat.


Fishing Club, Akasaka, Tokyo

My wonderful sister, bless her, was much better at planning than me, and always carried a Rough Guide or two. The Tokyo one tipped us off to the gorgeous secluded garden at the Hotel New Otani.


Hotel New Otani garden
The garden is actually hundreds of years older than the 1960's hotel. Part of what made it a bit magical was that you couldn't just access it from outside - we went up a couple of floors from the hotel entry level and wandered a ways through the building to get there.
Koi in the garden at the Hotel New Otani, Tokyo

There were several friendly cats roaming the garden, and lots of colourful koi in the water.

P6060417 O on bridge


from Tokyo Metro Government Building

The next day we went to Shinjuku. First destination was the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, which has observation decks on the 45th floor. You can see a whole lot of Tokyo from 202 metres up. Apparently you can also see Mt Fuji, but it wasn't clear enough for that the day we were there.

Yoyogi park

While there are one or two other, higher, Tokyo towers, this one charges no admission fee, and we had other business in Shinjuku anyway. We had loose plans to stop in Harajuku on the way back as well, but sort of ran out of time - the closest we got was this view of Yoyogi Park (the big green area in the photo above).


Also Shinjuku

Our other business - the many floors of craft and haberdashery that is Okadaya - required getting from the west side of the massive Shinjuku train station to the east side. It was frustrating, but I'm not sure there is any simple way to do it. Although they do directional signs, even in English/Rōmaji, pretty well in stations (and in Japan in general) it's just really hard to find a straight path through a complex station, and avoid paying for trains you aren't going to catch.


By the time we made it out to the correct exit and fresh air, we had picked up lunch/snacks on our way through the station, and were really hungry. We had already worked out that eating on the street is not really done, but resigned ourselves to attracting some stares by eating while leaning on a railing outside the station. It's funny, there is lots of really, great, cheap convenience food available but I guess it's intended for taking home/to the office/eating on the train (though not, it appears, the metro).


During our two weeks such etiquette matters came up a bit. Japan just seems so polite and conservative in many ways (though I'm aware there are all sorts of undercurrents and countercultures), Though it felt like odd tourist behaviour would be pretty well tolerated (within limits I'm sure), we still were probably overly aware of how we were different. We'd catch ourselves talking/laughing on the metro, taking silly photos...

P6050289 ed

The way people dress is pretty conservative too. As well as not wearing very tight clothes, I noticed that most women showed very little skin, wearing flesh coloured hose and socks even in very warm weather (and even sometimes with shorts!) Our summer clothes were nowhere near indecent, but we often felt less covered up than the average Japanese lady. Also less dressy - it seemed that people don't just dress up for work but also for almost any outing (eg) a day trip to an island involving a lot of walking, climbing stairs - the kind of thing Australians would probably dress most casually for.

  In Shinjuku

string shop quartet

A crowd had gathered outside this violin shop to listen to the quartet playing inside, facing the window, with speakers on the outside.



Michelle said...

I loved Japan. Looks like you loved it too. We stayed in Nishi Shinjuku on our first visit, just near the government building which we never had the time to go up. On our visit on the way back we stayed right near Shinjuku station, just 5 minutes from Okadaya. Was such a fabulous store(s) as was Nippori fabric town. Can't wait to go back!

Loved your photos. Will refer back to them next time we go, as there was so much we didn't see.

Anonymous said...

Love your wrap-up! Can we go again?

Donna Lee said...

It's all so strange. That's what makes it wonderful. We don't often get to see things that are completely different.

I've heard that lots of places frown on eating food on the street (maybe that helps explain the lack of trash). Here, people eat and drink everywhere, and the trash ends up everywhere. It sounds like you guys had a great time!